“If you were a star,” you said, “you’d be called Forgive me.
To which I smiled (you couldn’t see me) and said,
“Or Forgive me not.”

You said “Beware the ides of March on days we’re distant
from bees and flowers.”

“Not if the bees in the mouth don’t sting,” I said,
“and the air we move is a monk’s in a meditative year.”

“Are we the plants or the particles,
the planets or the elements?” you asked,
“and our touchless touching, vector-dependent sex,

and the honey mouth, are they
the silences that waggle the tune
on our foraging routes?”

“When I say honey,” I clarified,
“I’m asking you whose pollen you contain.
We’re no snowflake symmetry

yet to each pollen grain its aperture:
porous, colpate, yet blanketing the earth
as crystals might, and light isn’t refused.”

“And when I say honey,” you said
“I grip my sweetness on your life,
on stigma and anthophile,

and the soporific folded on its synchronous river
that doesn’t intend to dissect my paradise.”

“O captive my captive, we lost and what did love gain,”
I asked, “I haven’t fallen from where I haven’t been,
or exited what I didn’t enter.”

“Seen or unseen,” you said, “I’ll live in your mouth.
We have an extra room. The children like it there,
mead in it their stories and playdough.”

“As if a child is the cosmic dust that made me,
and I’m the suffix, its -ide.”

“And within that child a child.”
“And within that another.”

Copyright © 2020 by Fady Joudah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I awake to you.  A burning building.  
The alarm is my own.  Internal alarm, clock alarm, 
then coming through your very walls.  The alarm 
is of you.  I call first with my mouth.  Then with my phone.
No one.  Then maybe someone.  Then yes, a fire fighter, or two, is coming.  
Outside, the children gather and gawk.  Cover their ears from the blare.
They are clothed in their footed pajamas.  We are all awake now. Even you,
the burning building.  
I’m leaving, I say.  I look them each in the eyes, the mouths, the chests.  
I look at their footed feet.
I’m leaving you burning.   The children can walk.  The children can follow.
The building burns now behind me.  You burn, 
behind me.  The alarm
Screams.  No. No.
Not screaming. 
There is a field between us.  
Now you are calling. 
And now beseeching.
Behind me the children are a trail of children.  Some following.  Some clinging.
And now you, my home, my building, burn and burn.
There is a mountain between us.
And now you are ringing.  
And now you are singing.
I look back.  Back to you, burning building.
You are a glowing dancer, you are a façade on sparkling display.
Now a child.  Or two.  Or three.  Pilgrim children. Between me 
And you.  

Copyright © 2020 by Tiphanie Yanique. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Up until this sore minute, you could turn the key, pivot away.

But mine is the only medicine now

wherever you go or follow.

The past is so far away, but it flickers,

then cleaves the night. The bones

of the past splinter between our teeth.

This is our life, love. Why did I think

it would be anything less than too much

of everything? I know you remember that cheap motel

on the coast where we drank red wine,

the sea flashing its gold scales as sun

soaked our skin. You said, This must be

what people mean when they say

I could die now. Now

we’re so much closer

to death than we were then. Who isn’t crushed,

stubbed out beneath a clumsy heel?

Who hasn’t stood at the open window,

sleepless, for the solace of the damp air?

I had to get old to carry both buckets

yoked on my shoulders. Sweet

and bitter waters I drink from.

Let me know you, ox you.

I want your scent in my hair.

I want your jokes.

Hang your kisses on all my branches, please.

Sink your fingers into the darkness of my fur.

 

Copyright © 2020 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’ve lost something and I can’t describe
what it is

line

and what if that’s my job
to say how empty an absence is

line

like rolling 2 gears together
and maybe teeth are missing in one
or both

line

or maybe trying to grind
two stones that are
polished and smoothed

line

I’ve always liked 
a little grit

line

but sand in my shoes
or in my hair

line

is like shattering
a glass in carpet
and using a broom to
get it out

line

I can’t describe
what it’s like to
sit on opposite ends
of a park bench and
not know how
to get any closer

line

I miss so many things
and I’ve looked through my piggy
bank and only found pennies

line

a pile of things that are
almost completely worthless

line

a shoebox full of sporks
a well with a bucket and a rope
that’s too short

line

sometimes in my room
it’s so dark that if I wake
up I won’t know if it’s morning or night

line

imagine being someplace you know
so well but are lost and don’t have any idea
how to get out

line

the rule is, put your right hand out
lay it on the wall, and follow

line

sometimes the rules don’t apply to all of us
I don’t want to sleep here again tonight

Copyright © 2020 by Kenyatta Rogers . Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Sycorax

As if someone blew against the back of my neck,
I writhed up, becoming a wind myself,

and I flowed out the window of my bedroom.
Maybe I also emitted a moan over the croaking

of the frogs that night. Then I raised my arms
to the clouds, rooting my feet deep in the soil.

A stretch, I called it.

Now—pure nature in the night,
too sway-of-the-trees wise to worry about men—

I opened my nightgown but offered nothing
to anyone. This is for me, I said aloud to the night.

People would have laughed had they seen me
out their windows, naked but for my nightgown

flapping: I was small but the conviction of my stance
would’ve made me seem immense, framed

through their windows. Without my clothes
I was a world of possibility, more than a desire.

I, knowing better, I ought to mind my place,
I ought to walk like a lady,

I ought to demure myself to make him feel stronger,
I ought to mourn him when

he is gone. But every word I spoke to the wind
carried to him the scent of his regrets.

Every word blew through the night,
a breeze of my indifference.

Copyright © 2020 by A. Van Jordan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 28, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I can never have the field. I can never halve the
field, make a helix of my hands and hold the
halves

like pictures of the field—or fields—and affix one
feeling to the fields—or the infinite field—and stay
that way

I can walk down to the bog, the field
under-foliate-feet, in a bloodflow motion towards
the beating

of the bullfrogs’ black-lacteous tactile pool and
listen to the unilluminable below-surface stirring,

gravid ruckus of drooling purr and primordial bluebrown
blur. I can aggravate the grating godhood and glisten

of preening slime—its opaque, plumbeous,
tympanic slurps—an inside-outside alertness
bur-bur-bur-bur-

burrowing, harping with pings and plops
(lurches), and make the mossy froth go
berserk with silence,

then foofaraw when the bog in the field senses I am
nothing to fear. I can hear amphibious amour fou
pulsing

under a blue-green gasoline film, spongiform but
formless, boiling with blotched air-bubble let-go, life
fumping

the surface in slicks of upward rain and glossopalatine
pops and liquid crop circles. I can stop here and
listen

in time with the bobolink and make my bel
memento, my untremendous tremolo and
rinky-dink dictation.

In the fable, the animal smells fear and so does the
fool. I think to myself—in my skull’s skeletal
bell-shape—

I am both. I am both. I am both, and I can hold it
together.

Copyright © 2020 by Kristina Martino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

–From the immigration questionnaire given to Chinese entering or re-entering the U.S. during the Chinese Exclusion Act

Have you ridden in a streetcar?
Can you describe the taste of bread?
Where are the joss houses located in the city?
Do Jackson Street and Dupont run
in a circle or a line, what is the fruit
your mother ate before she bore you,
how many letters a year
do you receive from your father?
Of which material is your ancestral hall
now built? How many water buffalo
does your uncle own?
Do you love him? Do you hate her?
What kind of bird sang
at your parents’ wedding? What are the birth dates
for each of your cousins: did your brother die
from starvation, work, or murder?
Do you know the price of tea here?
Have you ever touched a stranger’s face
as he slept? Did it snow the year
you first wintered in our desert?
How much weight is
a bucket and a hammer? Which store
is opposite your grandmother’s?
Did you sleep with that man
for money? Did you sleep with that man
for love? Name the color and number
of all your mother’s dresses. Now
your village’s rivers.
What diseases of the heart
do you carry? What country do you see
when you think of your children?
Does your sister ever write?
In which direction does her front door face?
How many steps did you take
when you finally left her?
How far did you walk
before you looked back?

Copyright © 2020 by Paisley Rekdal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 11, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.